UNHCR calls for the suspension of Dublin transfers to Bulgaria

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On 2 January 2014, in its Observations on the Current Situation of Asylum in Bulgaria, UNHCR called for the suspension of all transfers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation. UNHCR considers that asylum seekers in Bulgaria face a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment due to systemic deficiencies in reception conditions and asylum procedures in the country. In such circumstances, the halting of Dublin transfers to Bulgaria is required by judgments of the European Courts, as well as by Article 3(2) of the Dublin III Regulation. UNHCR describes the receptions conditions for asylum seekers in Bulgaria as ‘deplorable’ and ‘at variance with the right to human dignity and respect for privacy’. In addition, UNHCR cites the risk of lengthy and arbitrary detention due to delays and to the absence of a clear basis for detention in Bulgarian law. Another critical problem is the denial of access to a fair and effective asylum determination procedure, which leaves asylum seekers sent to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation at risk of refoulement to their countries of origin.

ECRE released a statement on 8 January 2014 supporting this position. In the statement, ECRE criticises the draft law in Bulgaria amending the Asylum Act, which foresees widespread detention of asylum seekers, contrary to international EU norms and standards, and allows the detention of unaccompanied children. ECRE also reminds European states that they are precluded as a matter of law from returning anyone under the Dublin mechanism, or any bilateral agreement, if this would create a risk of a violation of any of the obligations they have undertaken under the European Convention on Human Rights or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECRE endorses UNHCR’s statement that a Dublin transfer may be precluded by the risk of a rights violation ‘even in the absence of systemic deficiencies’ in the responsible country’s asylum system. It is recommended that Bulgaria adopt a crisis management plan, in accordance with Article 33 of the Dublin III Regulation, to reinforce EU efforts to improve the situation in Bulgaria.

Read UNHCR’s Observations on Bulgaria and ECRE’s statement.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners 

Dublin Transfer
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Procedural guarantees
Reception conditions